Missing Tribal Journalists Return Home

Update – October 17, 2017

The two missing tribal journalists – Shah Nawaz Tarakzai and Islam Gul Afridi – returned home on October 16, 2017, after abduction on October 15, 2017, families and colleagues confirmed to Freedom Network.

“Tarakzai is fine and rejoined the family,” brother Aftab Mohmand said. However, Tarakzai did not yet say who abducted him and why.

Farooq Mehsud, chief editor of Waziristan Times, told Freedom Network that Islam Gul Afridi also returned home.

Both the journalists were freed in Peshawar.

EARLIER, the two tribal journalists went missing after armed gunmen abducted on October 15, 2017, Shah Nawaz Tarakzai from a media centre while another tribal journalist Islam Gul Afridi is unaccounted for from October 15 since his last telephone call with his chief editor on October 14, 2017.

“The enforced disappearance of two journalists is a great cause of concern and we demand that both the civilian and military authorities should make safe recovery of both Tarkzai and Afridi,” Freedom Networl [FN], Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization said in its Press Freedom Alert on October 16, 2017.

‘Both Shah Nawaz and Islam Gul are professional journalists and their disappearance in such fashion is disrespect to the state and government of Pakistan’s commitment to upholding freedom of press and freedom of expression,” the alert went on to add.

Shah Nawaz Tarakzai works for Prague-based Pushto-language Mashaal Radio while Islam Gul Afridi writes for online newspaper Waziristan Times.

Shah Nawaz’s brother Aftab Mohmand said: “They (gunmen) asked Shah Nawaz to accompany them to a police station for some investigation purpose and my brother did not hesitate although he was not taken to Shabqadar Police station instead eyewitnesses say they drove him in Peshawar (district) direction.”

The missing journalist was busy sending report to his network when the armed men entered Media Center in Shabqadar in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Aftab. “Abductors told two journalists on the spot that they should not report the disappearance of Shah Nawaz and “stay silent.”

Officials at Shabqadar Police Station told local journalists that Shah Nawaz was not brought there for any investigation nor there was any probe pending against him.

“I was summoned by intelligence people three times for last one year. There is nothing to worry about,” missing Shah Nawaz told his brother last Friday – October 13, 2017. The brother said he asked Shah Nawaz last Friday so he had update about his safety and security issues.

In the past, journalists working for Mashaal and Deewa Radio stations have experienced such disappearance and one of them took asylum in Europe this year after he was picked up by paramilitary force in Karachi.

File photo: Islam Gul Afridi

File photo: Islam Gul Afridi

Farooq Mehsud, chief editor of Waziristan Times, said Islam Gul Afridi contacted him on October 14 informing the editor that he “received call from unknown number” – usually intelligence personnel using with no caller identification number to hide identity. “I want to inform you about this call,” the journalist was quoted as saying. “Since that call there is no contact with the missing colleague and his mobile phone is off,” Mehsud went on to say.

“We are not sure where Afridi was picked up and who did it,” he added.

A special committee of Peshawar Press Club and Khyber Union of Journalists was announced to make joint efforts for early recovery of the two missing tribal journalists. The committee members will meet both civilian and military people to seek the missing journalists’ recovery.

“We are extremely concerned at no whereabouts of two senior journalists,” said Peshawar Press Club president Alamgir Khan after a meeting of senior journalists held in Peshawar on October 16, 2017.

The committee would devise future course of action after its meetings with concerned civilian and military officials urging Tarakzai’s family to avoid lodging First Information Report (FIR) with police about enforced disappearance of the journalist.

“Our (journalists) community may start sit-in and take other necessary steps if the two journalists are not allowed to return home safely,” the committee decided during the meeting.

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